Advice for Search for the Least Expensive yet Best Quality Electronic Digital Self-Contained Organ
  • swerdswerd
    Posts: 26
    Hello All:

    I am a former church organist of 20+ years, but am now retired since my first of 3 strokes. I am interested in saving towards the purchase on a 2-manual with AGO pedalboard self-contained digital organ with which I am hoping to employ in my own therapy to keep what little I have left (I am currently left with only limited use of my non-dominant left hand and foot), and to support my music composition activities (I am a self-proclaimed prolific hymn tune writer and composer of original hymns). I have looked into Ahlborn-Galanti's AG2100, Allen's Historique II Studio and CF-10 Church organs, and the Johannus Studio 170, Opus 270, and Vivaldi 270 organs, and the Rodgers Inspire Series 233 organ. Of all these organs, the AG2100 is by far the least expensive. I also understand that Walker Technical Products may have the best digital sound but I have not found any specific organs to consider and understand that anything Walker does is very expensive and mostly intended for churches, cathedrals, and theatres.

    I am interested in whatever advice you can give me in terms of directions of which organ might be best for me. Of course, I am open to finding such an organ from the above listed ones that is lightly used for a much lesser price. I am unable to work or earn any income so I am having to save out of my limited fixed income (e.g., SSI). My desire is to finally end up with as much a quality organ that sounds as close to a pipe organ and that will last the remainder of my lifetime and an organ that consumes the smallest footprint possible as my living accommodations does not allow for anything substantial. I realize that this inhibits a lot of my desire for the organ to adequately approximate a true pipe organ sound, especially in terms of its "presence".

    Thank you to anyone who might feel led to contribute anything, thoughts or otherwise, to my pursuit of the perfect organ for me.
  • Gamba
    Posts: 66
    Hello,

    You may want to consider a used instrument. At the risk of being burned alive by some adherents to company A and company R:

    Allen’s Renaissance technology came out in 1998. It’s still the basis of every organ they sell. Now there’s touchscreens for the MIDI modules and a USB jack for saving pistons, but that’s it. Even the much-vaunted GeniSys system is just the same old alterable voice shtick introduced in 1972.

    Rodgers’ Parallel Digital Imaging, with stereo samples of the pipework, was introduced in ‘93 and is still going strong.

    So you could buy a used organ from two decades ago, with the same stoplist as a new one, that would not sound different since the underlying tech is the same. And then there are those, myself included, who prefer the sound of big late-80s ADC Allens to the Renaissance ones.

    All this to say, unless you go the Hauptwerk route, you may be happier spending ~$10k on an older, 3-manual organ, than spending ~$30k on a new 2-manual one with the same technology. You’d then have extra money to buy an Alesis reverb unit and equalizer to really get it sounding good, particularly if it’s not got external speakers. The harsh sound in your face (or in your headphones) really needs to be tempered with some good reverb and equalized to be pleasant after a few hours.

    Good luck, and thank you for your service to the church.
  • swerdswerd
    Posts: 26
    Thanks for your valuable thoughts, Gamba! I have had an Allen TC-1 and sold it thinking I would never be able to play it again. I still can't play as before, but I could practice as a form of therapy on my left hand due to my 2nd stroke. What I like about the newer organs is the melody and pedal/solo and bass couplers feature. If I can find a good used organ that had that capability, I would look into it. But, as fate would have it, I do not have the money for any organ right now. I am on a limited fixed income (soc. sec.) and will have to save over the next few years to amass $10K. So...I'm basically in the dream stage and wondering which might be the most cost effective route to go as I save and plan. Your input is great! Thanks, again!
  • swerdswerd
    Posts: 26
    Everyone:

    What are your opinions and thoughts about the Ahlborn-Galanti organs and the Johannus organs? Are one of these better than the other and, if so, how and why? I have been leaning toward the AG2100 because of its features and price point. But its lesser price point in itself could be an indicator of quality deficiencies. Should this be a red flag I should pay attention to? Would I be better of with going for a used Johannus? Allen probably has the best used part supply and rugged endurance. Rodgers has changed ownership hands like a hot potato so I am suspicious about that.

    Which brand do you prefer and why? Keep in mind that I am very disabled and would be unable to do the tonal finishing and installation of reverbs and equalizers at additional expense. I would need to have an organ already tonally finished and in its final state when it is delivered to my home. I have no more room for external speaker systems of any sort, so I am dependent on finding the organ with the best sound in a self-contained console, new or used, upon receipt.

    So...What organ do YOU feel would best serve me and my objectives? As I have stated earlier, It is my desire that I would be able to use it for therapy to further stave off the decline of the use of my only partially functional yet painful hand I have left and it is my non-dominant left hand. I would also use the organ for inspiration and composition of church music, and maybe, if I could get a handle on it, composing organ music solely for the left hand and foot, for those of us so disabled. Time is NOT on my side! But I pray and hope that God will make a way for my dream to become a reality as I have no real money I can bring to the table. I have found an AG2100 for $13,900 tonally finished and installed in my home, but at this time, that is but a pipe dream. That is why I wish to explore all other options with your help!
  • I played an AG 2100 in a church setting for about 5 years, and loved it. The console was sturdy, the electronics were reliable, the midi capability was great, and it had a built-in reverb function to improve a dry acoustic. It had a selectable voice for each division, which included a 32' pedal stop, which always made me smile! It's been some time now since I've played an Ahlborn-Galanti, but I have nothing but good recollections of its playability, tonal quality, and flexibility. I personally like it better than any Allen I've played, though I've not played any of the bigger, modern Allen models (an Allen Renaissance R-230 is the only Allen I've really spent time with). Ditto Rodgers. And I've never played a Johannus. At this point, I'm exclusively playing real pipes at work, and Hauptwerk at home.
  • swerdswerd
    Posts: 26
    RE: "I'm exclusively playing real pipes at work, and Hauptwerk at home."

    Where do you find Hauptwerk organs? Do the sell self-contained models and, if so, for how much? Where can I go to get some personal experience with one? I thought Hauptwerks were only a digital add-on to existing organs. Please elucidate me more on this. And thank you for what you shared of your experience and thoughts about the AG2100, so far my leading contender in my search.
  • There are some companies that offer turn-key Hauptwerk solutions. I guess it depends on your budget. For example: http://www.customorganworks.com/

    If you're curious about Hauptwerk solutions, it might be worth perusing the Hauptwerk discussion board as well at http://forum.hauptwerk.com/

    Keep in mind that while Hauptwerk can provide world-class sound quality and incredible flexibility, it is still computer-based, and tends to be a bit more technically-involved to get up & running, and computer issues can crop up from time to time. If simplicity is your goal, a nice digital like the AG2100 may be the better bet.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • swerdswerd
    Posts: 26
    Thanks again, 32ContraBombarde!
  • mmeladirectress
    Posts: 480
    Swerd wrote >>> Which brand do you prefer and why?
    Prefer: Phoenix
    Why: Quality of sound exceeds both R and A, IMO
    Note: There are minimal external speakers required, however please remember that these can be mounted between studs in drywall, so as not to take up a footprint in the room.
    Thanked by 1Casavant Organist
  • swerdswerd
    Posts: 26
    mmeladirectress ~ Thanks for your input! Never heard of Phoenix brand, though. Do they offer any self-contained consoles? I'm afraid my walls are too narrow to fit any speakers between the studs, whether its an inside or outside wall, Satellite speakers of any kind would definitely NOT be an option in our home.
  • mmeladirectress
    Posts: 480
    Phoenix is out of Canada.
    Do not know where you, are but they do have sales points in the US. http://www.phoenixorgans.com
  • swerdswerd
    Posts: 26
    I'm in Oregon, the mid-Willamette Valley area. Are they a Phoenix, AZ concern/business?
  • mmeladirectress
    Posts: 480
    Phoenix Organs are manufactured in Canada.
  • swerdswerd
    Posts: 26
    Probably cost-prohibitive for me on the West Coast of America! Sorry!
  • I have a Phoenix at home and it works wonders. As well there's a Phoenix where I sing. Both are superb instruments. They offer some really inexpensive solutions, but the quality is better than any Allen. Closest to pipes an inexpensive digital organ can get. PM me if you would like more info.

    If your heart is set on Hauptwerk, they do that as well. They can basically do anything for you, be it a very small 2 manual organ to a huge over 100-stop 4 manual instrument.
  • swerdswerd
    Posts: 26
    Casavant Organist ~ Per their website, it seems as though they have no self-contained speaker consoles as there is no room for any external speakers and hardly enough room for just the console. My previous posts explain al this and what I need the organ for. Thanks, though! I want to get as much input and ideas and opinions as possible. So far, such as it is, the Ahlborn-Galanti AG2100 seems to be the leading contender. Any thoughts about this organ? It seems to have many features that would help me play it, although I really like Phoenix's organ bench, but wow, is it ever expensive!!!
  • swerdswerd
    Posts: 26
    And, for the record, my heart is not set on Hauptwerk. They, too, don't offer self-contained consoles and I would find the computer monitors cumbersome and difficult to operate on the fly given all my disabilities. I think I would prefer a much more traditional console so long as it has decent digital sound samples of true pipe organs and a similarly decent set of speakers and amplifier channels within the organ console itself.
  • mmeladirectress
    Posts: 480
    >> Probably cost-prohibitive for me on the West Coast of America! Sorry!

    well, you might ask these people how they like their Phoenix organs :-)

    ** Arroyo Grande SDA Church, 240 Vernon St, Arroyo Grande, CA 93420
    ** St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Roman Catholic Church, 12687 California St, Yucaipa, CA 92399

  • Phoenix Organs will also do custom-built instruments. In fact, even though there are base models on the website, the organs are all custom built making any adjustments minimal in terms of cost. This could include placing speakers inside the instrument, if necessary. Good luck on finding an organ!
  • swerdswerd
    Posts: 26
    Thanks, all you Phoenix fans! I know that products made in Canada are often superior to products made elsewhere. But I'm afraid that too many custom products are more costly the more custom they are and without a local presence/dealer, I would have difficulty in finding after-sale service and care beyond a phone call and email. Furthermore, I would have to come up with additional funds to cover shipping and handling and find someone local who would agree and be able to install their organ, including all tonal finishing adjustments. Please bare in mind that I am disabled on Social Security and I am unable to go out and get an extra job. I have not a church's source of income or a steady income stream as most of you probably have. As I write this, I don't have even a few bucks saved so it may be years before I could ever effect a purchase of any organ. That is why I refer to this as my dream, but if I cannot have an actual organ in mind to work toward, there is not much point in dreaming about it!
  • irishtenoririshtenor
    Posts: 894
    I would consider calling a dealer who might have something older, but reliable in their warehouse/workshop. It might be the kind of thing that they probably aren't going to install in a church at this point, but they might offer you a deal to take it off their hands.

    In this situation, I would probably recommend an Allen, because it is usually easiest to get replacement parts, should they be necessary.
  • swerdswerd
    Posts: 26
    Thanks, irishtenor! Unfortunately, we do not have any dealers in my local vicinity as we used to have! They have all closed down or moved far away!

    I've played Allens for many years. I like them, but unfortunately, I can't seem to ever feel comfortable at their consoles. I'm a short person with short arms and legs so that is probably why. I've not had that problem with Rodgers or Ahlborn-Galanti. Some of the other brands I have never seen, other than some Johannus Organs, but I have never played them for enough time to know my comfort level with them. Unfortunately, all these brands, including Allen, are not located anywhere near where I could get to know them!

  • swerdswerd
    Posts: 26
    Hello Everyone!

    This morning, I spoke to the Rodgers rep in Portland near the airport. He said he has worked on A-G, Allen, Johannus, Phoenix, and of course, Rodgers organs for over 30 years. I asked him various pointed questions about each brand and their respective price points compared to quality and durability of their organs. Of course he claims that Rodgers was the best, I wouldn't expect him to say otherwise. But he did give me a fuller picture of where everyone is coming from in the marketing of their brand of organs. Bottom Line: Rodgers is not owned by Johannus. They are owned by the same entity that owns Johannus, Makin, and others. He claims that for the past two years, Rodgers has beat all comers in sales and is on the most stable and profitable footing of every other organ manufacturer that I have been considering. Also, my desire to be able to select the exact stop and composite registration without being restricted by a manufacturer's historic style/intonation samples setup was first pioneered by Rodgers and is now being used by A-G, with Allen, Johannus, Phoenix, and others not allowing you to do that! He also warned to be very cautious when purchasing an A-G, Johannus, or Phoenix organ as they usually do not have a good network of service support or presence in the U.S. like Rodgers and Allen do. Rodgers is here to stay and, although owned by an overseas entity, their organs are significantly being recognized as among the best in the world. Unfortunately, they are priced out of my market; however, he told me that an older Rodgers digital organs 3-10 years old are available often at just a fraction of the price of a newer organ with similar specs so to always check his inventory before buying new. So...I guess I will keep my options open while I work at saving for my elusive organ.

    THANK YOU ALL FOR YOUR HELP AND INPUT!
    Thanked by 1irishtenor
  • swerdswerd
    Posts: 26
    Has anyone heard of the Viscount and Verdin organs? If so, what do you know about them? How customizable are they and what is their price range? I have prepared a two and three manual stop list for my dream organ. I would classify it under an American Eclectic variety and I don't need the stops organized and presented in any historical grouping of manufacturer-determined stops; rather, I would be happy with just having my particularly chosen stops on the console, but I would accept any library of additional stops the manufacturer would like to throw in accessible equally via my divisional MIDI stops. Are there any organ builders that would entertain such a concept? I have carefully reviewed everyone's inputs and contacted the various organ builders you have recommended heretofore. Your input is valued highly and they are very much appreciated and esteemed. I continue to remain open and most receptive to your expertise and contributions to my search. If I could locate a used organ that satisfied most of my wishes on my stop lists, that would be great too! If you are interested in what stops I have included in my dream 2 and 3 manual organs, I have attached a copy of these stop lists for your reference.

    Thank you all for all your help in my search for my dream organ!
  • swerdswerd
    Posts: 26
    I have been offered a Johannus Sweelinck 37 digital organ for $8500. Is that a fair price or should I try to negotiate for a lower price or look elsewhere? She sounds like she may be a dealer, should that be a consideration in determining the price.
  • irishtenoririshtenor
    Posts: 894
    Is it new or used? I seem to remember reading or hearing that those aren't made anymore, so I'm guessing it would be used? For a used Johannus, $8,500 seems high to me, but I'm no expert.

    @Frogman?
  • swerdswerd
    Posts: 26
    Hi irishtenor,

    It is a used organ being sold by a dealer on consignment. It is 8 years old and in excellent condition per the dealer. It is currently being stored in a warehouse in Tracy, CA. I wish to see and play it but it must be inaccessible as the dealer has not offered any facilitation to do so. She has reduced her price from AN ORIGINAL PRICE OF $9500, then $8500, and now $7900 + 1/2 of the shipping charges to my home. The organ also comes with an adjustable bench, a much needed accessory for me as I am rather short in stature with short legs and arms. I am unable to move forward on this until I can amass that sum of money! Being disabled, I am not able to go out and get a second job, much less a first job, to bring in the needed capital. I'm just praying that if God wants me to have that organ, He will make a way where there now seems to be no way. I would appreciate others' prayers along this line as well!

    SW
  • swerdswerd
    Posts: 26
    Well Folks, I think I have identified my ideal organ, pending my saving up enough money to purchase it! The Johannus Sweelinck 37 organ is being sold on consignment and is currently being stored in a warehouse. The dealer in charge of the sale has NOT yet given me permission to see the organ, and is willing to pay only half of the shipping. She did drop the price down a bit, and I appreciated that, but it was not low enough where I could reasonably afford it, at least in the short term. She seems impatient to deal with my limited financial position, too. Also, she is far away (in California and I'm in Oregon!) which makes it difficult to view the organ. So, as nice as it sounds, I've broadened my search.

    What I have my sights on now is an older Rodgers organ: 1st choice ~ Allegiant 778 three manual; 2nd choice ~ Allegiant 677 two manual. My choice of "color" is a medium oak stained console, if possible, although I realized that the dark oak console seems to be the most popular. With the three manual, not only does it have a pedal coupler to the Great, but also has two melody couplers to the great, one from the Swell and one from the Choir! Of course the two manual has the pedal coupler and the melody coupler from the Swell. BOTH ORGANS ARE SELF-CONTAINED. Now, I only need to find one while I am saving up for it. I am hoping that by the time I have some money saved up, the organ will be old enough that it might cost less when one turns up. I understand that the Allegiant Series inspired the current Artist Series at Rodgers.

    So, here is where you all come in: What do you think of my choice? Please let me know as these organs become available, especially in Oregon!

    Thanks for all your input heretofore! It has been very helpful!

    SW
  • swerdswerd
    Posts: 26
    I've looked at the Insignias too, but I have found them to be as unavailable as the Allegiants. I need more time to save up my money so maybe they will become more available and less expensive with time. Their owners obviously love them! I knew of two Allegiant 677s for sale. One in a dark oak finish on Ebay for around $8000 (he just increased his price from $7250!) in LaGrange, TX, but he will not ship! You must pick up and remove the organ in person when you pay him! The other organ is in the medium oak finish which I prefer and was being sold by Anderson Organ Works in Logan, Utah, but it has since been sold. He was willing to pay for main-floor delivery/shipping within 120 miles of the store and his asking price was $8250.

    I've heard that the A778s run on average between $15-19K. I located one that had been for sale in 2007 for $25,000 in KS, and I can only assume that it has since been sold as he has never responded to any of my emails. I did locate an Insignia 527 with Marshall Ogletree Associates, but there was no price or shipping/pick-up info for it. They also have offered a Windsor 840 organ with all the bells and whistles, but I believe it has a Melody and a Bass Coupler. These were shown as a Continuo and a Solo Coupler, which were the apparent former names for the Bass and Melody Couplers. Again, no price or shipping/pickup info. Being that I was dealing with Marshall Ogletree Associates, I think I can safely assume that their prices for these organs would be astronomical, so I did not pursue them!

    I have also since encountered the Allegiant 698 three-manual organ. It is quite similar to the A778 and appears to be a newer breed of organ, so it most likely would cost more than the A778, as it looks like it was manufactured 2-3 years+ after the A778. Again, the features are essentially identical between the A778 and A698.

    I think I could be happy with any one of these Rogers instruments, especially the three manuals, which I usually played and learned on. As for an update on my financing, I am still in the saving mode. I currently have about $1000 saved in the bank. My lawyer is issuing a demand for $10,000, and said he might accept as low as $6000 if they issued a counter-offer to settle. He reasonably hopes that we will net between $7500 and $8000 though, and I advised him that I would rather go to court if they only offered $6000, unless he could convince me otherwise. Then I have a powerchair that I thought I had sold for $3500. The lady said that she has to move first, and then she could start making $300/month payments until she paid the $3500 asking price off in full. Other than that, I am still saving and waiting until an acceptable organ becomes available.

    So...here is where you all come in! Please, if you know of such an organ becoming available, please let me know ASAP and let the seller know about me and my situation. Of course, anyone who wishes to contribute to my cause is welcome to do so, as time is not on my side or helping my condition any. (LOL!) But "God moves in mysterious ways His wonders to perform," and this has been a long-time prayer request of mine, that He would provide me with an organ in His time if He wishes for me to have one! Thanks everybody!

    SW